Jenny steps down

Jenny Smith Gordonton’s Jenny Smith can stay in bed all week if she likes. For almost 30 years, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, she has walked, cycled or driven to what is now Anexa Animal Health, and dispensed reliably good cheer – among more practical things like vet appointments and animal remedies.

Last Friday she retired, and said it was going to be a little odd not being at the clinic on Gordonton Rd Monday morning.

“I handed over the keys and thought, that’s it. It will be a bit funny, but I’ve made the right decision. Family calls, it’s time to be with my husband Chris and daughters, both of whom are expecting babies next year.”

Jenny and Chris came to New Zealand from Herefordshire, England in 1982 and were renting in Hillcrest when they discovered Gordonton.

“It was nice and quiet, Garfield St was still in metal and there were no street lights. We looked out on paddocks and lovely big oaks.”

Not long after arriving, and in search of work, Jenny wrote to every vet in Hamilton.

“Back in England I’d worked for three Scottish vets, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Keith (Houston) replied to my letter and interviewed me in his house, with his wife and children in the lounge.”

She got the job at Chartwell Vets, and never left – although the practice changed over the years.

“I started off in the old wages office in what was the Gordonton dairy factory. It was flipping cold down there, concrete floor, quite dark. John Bridgman was next door, they did all sorts in that factory – potatoes, onions and also had a lot of laughs.”

She parked her bike one morning and a little later, noticed it was missing. “I looked everywhere for it and at 5pm decided it was stolen, and walked out. One of them came over and asked if I’d looked up – and there it was, strung up as high as you could get to the ceiling, on a big conveyer belt. They’d been laughing all day.”

Back then all the accounts and correspondence were done by hand – Jenny taught herself how to use computers when they came along.

“That was one of the good things about the job. Technology changed how we did things, so you kept learning. But the farmers are still the same.”

At Jenny's farewell
At Jenny’s farewell

That’s what she’ll miss most, she says. “The farmers are great, I love the interaction. Chatting with them over the counter, watching their children grow and being part of their lives. I’ve served three generations now.”

The practice then moved into the former Gordonton service station. She continued to bike or walk along Gordonton Rd to work, nearly always accompanied by Chris. This was where her farewell party was on Friday, and it seemed half the district turned out for it.

“I’ve always been happy in my job, the people are wonderful and are like a second family. I feel very privileged to work with these people, and this community.”

Chris will continue to mow the lawn at Anexa and Jenny says she will still call in. “Whether they like it or not. Diane Munroe, my replacement, is a people person too. She’ll be fantastic.

She’s looking forward to Christmas, the first ever where she will have time to make mince pies and other seasonal treats. “I’ll be able to do all those things I never was able to fit in. And June will be good – I never took a holiday then because of calving.”

Back in England she had studied art for three years and wants to get back in to painting.

“I might have to see if I can share Chris’ studio although he doesn’t seem too keen. I might have to go in to the old playhouse to do my bit.”

Jenny and Chris love Gordonton, and have no plans to leave. “It’s close to town, it’s lovely and peaceful, the people are fantastic. You can always find a friend, there’s always someone happy to help you.”

Jenny with Chris at the big farewell party.
Jenny with Chris at the big farewell party.
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One thought on “Jenny steps down

  • December 5, 2014 at 11:52 pm

    Happy retirement Jenny! May you have many sleep-ins and have fun with the joy of painting!


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